Daniel Halliday
Feb 1 · Last update 2 mo. ago.
What has derailed Thai democracy for so long?
Thailand has had a long history of military coups and political and constitutional crises, which have often derailed the democratic process in the country. The country prepares for their latest democratic elections in March, but what has disrupted the democratic process in Thailand so many times over such a long period? Picture: Democracy Monument, Bangkok
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Military have attempted to maintain control against a backdrop of anti-corruption protests and terrorist violence
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The People’s Alliance for Democracy’s opposition to Thaksin Shinawatra
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Marginalised poor community’s loyalty to Thaksin Shinawatra
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A culture of coups d'état
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Military have attempted to maintain control against a backdrop of anti-corruption protests and terrorist violence

The latest and longest military government in recent Thai history has postponed democracy in the country for such a long period due to an episode of decreasing stability surrounding the opposing ‘red shirt’ and ‘yellow shirt’ political movements in the country. This Bipartisan system has repeatedly ground the political process to a halt and led to a political atmosphere of fear and an increase in military control, as the new constitution will see the military appointed to the majority of seats in parliament. However with an estimated seven million new voters since the last election who are often vocally tired of the bipartisan politics in Thailand, parties such as young newcomer Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit's Future Forward are aiming their campaign at these younger voters. The Future Forward party’s deputy leader is a former Lieutenant-General of the Thai military also and has commented that “it is actually the military that is the source of Thailand's political problems” and “he is working on plans that would reform the military, including its reporting structures, and make the force more professional.” [1] [1] aljazeera.com/news/2019/03/parties-hold-final-rallies-thailand-prepares-vote-190322183720312.html

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The People’s Alliance for Democracy’s opposition to Thaksin Shinawatra

The People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) or “yellow shirt” movement are a movement and pressure group formed mainly of southern royalists who have repeatedly campaigned against corruption and were one of the main parties in the political crises of 2005/6 and 2008. The PAD movement is a nationalist group, against fiscal reforms led by Thaksin Shinwatra that push for anti-materialistic society with a royally appointed government, and see the “reds shirt” supporters of Shinawatra as thugs and anarchists. The PAD were behind the anti-government protests that led to the 2006 military coup, and again reformed to protest a new governments links to Shinawatra in 2008, seizing the countries airport and government buildings, and clashing violently with red shirt protesters. Although the PAD split into two factions and formed a political party in 2011, many PAD leaders were involved in the 2013/4 protests and that led to the latest military coup; as the ultra-nationalist ultra-royalist position remains a popular one in Thailand, democracy seems to be repeatedly destabilised. newmandala.org/whos-who-in-the-anti-government-forces-in-thailand

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Marginalised poor community’s loyalty to Thaksin Shinawatra

Thaksin Shinawatra made some important changes during his time in power in Thailand, expanding health care coverage to a national level, national education reforms, and promoting small and medium sized business, while being tough on crime, drugs and terrorism. As a result Shinawatra became popular in poorer rural regions and amongst the Thai working classes. This loyalty remains unshaken through the 2006 coup that deposed Shinawatra, through violent protests in 2010 and survived the 2014 coup that removed Shinawatra’s sister Yingluck from her position as Prime Minister. Shinawatra’s Pheu Thai Party, the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (red shirt) movement, and the majority of Northern Thailand’s rural poor, remain in favour of democratic and societal reforms against a middle class and royalist elite that want to bypass democracy, control the country and take power away from the majority.

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A culture of coups d'état

Having established a constitution in 1932, following a coup d'état, Siam transferred from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy but also began a long periods of repeated military rule. Democracy gradually took form in Thai politics through the 1970’s and 80’s, but with frequent military coups taking place and various constitutional crises providing an excuse to do so, Thailand seemed to develop a culture of military takeovers; the countries present 12th coup being in effect since 2014. But with current military junta appointed Prime Minister, Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha, recently strengthening his position as the country's leader, and pushing back democratic elections once again, democracy doesn’t look set to grace Thai society again anytime soon.

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Daniel Halliday
Mar 8
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DH edited this paragraph
Having established a constitution in 1932, following a coup d'état, Siam transferred from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy but also began a long periods of repeated military rule. Democracy gradually took form in Thai politics through the 1970’s and 80’s, but with frequent military coups taking place and various constitutional crises providing an excuse to do so, Thailand seemed to develop a culture of military takeovers; the countries present 12th coup being in effect since 2014. But with current military junta appointed Prime Minister, Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha, recently strengthening his position as the country's leader, and pushing back democratic elections once again, democracy doesn’t look set to grace Thai society again anytime soon.
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